‘I am distraught’: Liberal MNA vows to continue fight for services for people with autism

Click to play video: 'Quebec dismisses proposal to study autism services' Quebec dismisses proposal to study autism services
WATCH: The Quebec government has dismissed a proposal to study what services are available for people with autism. Liberal MNA and mother of two children with autism Jennifer Macarone joins Global's Elysia Bryan Baynes – Nov 8, 2019

The Coalition Avenir Québec Government (CAQ) shot down a proposal by Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone to study what services are available for people living with autism — with a special focus on issues facing those transitioning into adulthood.

Maccarone was hoping the mandate would be approved by the Health and Social Services Commission, but CAQ MNAs, who make up the majority of voices on the commission, voted against the Liberal proposal on Thursday.

Maccarone said the ministers on the commission felt the scope of the study was too narrow.

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Maccarone said she was in shock over the outcome.

“I am feeling it, I am distraught,” she told Global News. “It’s a terrible decision by the government.

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“In my opinion, this is something that should be non-partisan. I think we need all 125 MNAs to study this.”

Maccarone went on to express feeling a sense of betrayal.

READ MORE: Parents of adults with autism call on Quebec government to take urgent action

She referred to a French TV show on the TVA network that explores the personal lives of people with autism as they navigate into adulthood.

“François Legault was on that show,” Maccarone said. “He gave a very moving speech, saying that ‘I’m sensitive to the community and I understand what is going on and you can count on me.'”

As of mother of two children with autism, she says the challenges when children age out of both the educational and health systems are staggering — ranging from losing your pediatrician and having to look for a new doctor, to losing all access to government subsidies to help care for your child.

With one out of 64 people in Quebec with autism, Maccarone said it’s a growing problem that deserves more attention, especially to avoid any lapses in services.

READ MORE: Autism, explained: What’s the spectrum and how it develops

She said she was hoping the commission would take time to hear from people in the community about their experiences and solutions.

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“I thought we were going to be able to talk about what are we going to do about families to help them prepare for that transition,” she said.

CAQ MNA Marilyne Picard shot back at Maccarone on Friday, defending the decision to dismiss the proposal.

Picard acknowledged there’s a problem for those transitioning to adulthood, but said the government can’t limit itself to one handicap.

She argued the government is already doing a lot for people with autism and pointed to various initiatives, including a future pilot project on school for 21-year-olds to a harmonization plan for day centres.

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Picard also took aim at the former Liberal government, accusing it of underfinancing the network and treating every handicap in a silo.

While Maccarone said she’s still reeling from Thursday’s decision, she’s not giving up the fight.

“I never dreamed of being a politician, but I think that I recognize that my role has always been to speak for those that don’t have a voice,” she said.

“I will continue to lobby on behalf of that community, stand up and ask questions at the National Assembly and spread the word.”

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— With files from The Canadian Press

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